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Newcomers should plug holes
by Paul Kennedy, February 11th, 2014 8:04PM

TAGS:  mls


[NEW IN MLS: Outside Midfielders] More than half of MLS's 19 teams -- including five playoff teams -- have brought in new players who should challenge for starting jobs as outside midfielders in 2014. None would be considered game changers. Several could plug in holes at more than one position. But they include an MLS Newcomer of the Year, a Goal of the Year winner and finalist for Rookie of the Year. For a look at the top outside midfielders new at their MLS clubs.

MARVIN CHAVEZ (Colorado). Chavez, who has a shot at making the Honduras World Cup team, was unhappy with his situation in San Jose and was vocal about it, so his trade to the Rapids for Atiba Harris came as no surprise. Chavez's stats went from three goals and 13 assists in 2012 to one and one in 2013, so this will be a make-or-break season for the 30-year-old winger.

BOBBY CONVEY (New York). The Red Bulls are Convey's third club in the last year. The former U.S. national team player began the 2013 season at Sporting Kansas City, where he was very unhappy, moved to Toronto FC, where he had one goal and four assists in 21 games, and joined the Red Bulls from Toronto FC in a “sign-and-trade” deal. He'll battle Jonny Steele for the starting job on the left side of the New York midfield.

ATIBA HARRIS (San Jose). The 29-year-old Harris, acquired from Colorado in the Chavez trade, had career highs with five goals in 29 games in 2013 for the Rapids, his fifth MLS club in eight years. His 6-foot-3 frame makes him right at home with the Quakes' physical style. The St. Kitts & Nevis international can play up front but should have a better chance of getting playing time on the wings.

STEFAN ISHIZAKI (LA Galaxy). Born to a Japanese father and a Swedish mother, Ishizaki gives the Galaxy two things: help on the wings and another experienced player. With Robbie Rogers again injured, the 31-year-old Ishizaki got the start in Saturday's friendly win over Armenian club FC Shirak. He spent his entire career in Sweden except for two short stints in Italy and Norway.

CHRISTIAN MAIDANA (Philadelphia). Along with Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira, Maidana gives the Union three new starters in midfield. He should start on the left side, allowing Sebastien Le Toux to remain on the right side. Maidana, 26, most recently was a member of Argentinos Juniors. He joined the Union as a Designated Player.

JACKSON (Toronto FC). Toronto picked up the 25-year-old Brazilian from FC Dallas for a conditional second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and allocation money. He could be a valuable pickup. His likely position is at left midfield, but he played everywhere for Dallas. That versatility will help Toronto. He'll also be a key member of the locker room as he helps fellow Brazilian, DP signing Gilberto, adjust to the league.

HECTOR JIMENEZ (Columbus). Crew coach Gregg Berhalter played with Jimenez during their days together at the LA Galaxy, so he knows what the Cal product can do. The 25-year-old Jimenez is coming off his best MLS season: three goals and four assists in 25 appearances.

BENJI JOYA (Chicago). Only three teams entered to Joya lottery, but the 20-year-old Californian, picked up from Mexican club Santos on a one-year loan, could be one of the best first-year Americans in MLS. The first thing will be to find a place for him in the Fire's midfield. Joya, who hit the post in Saturday's 2-0 win over D.C. United, can play centrally as a No. 8 -- his preferred position -- or No. 10, but he can also play on the right side.

MARCO PAPPA (Seattle). The Sounders used the allocation slot it acquired from Chivas USA for Mauro Rosales to take Pappa, who is returning to MLS after two miserable seasons in the Netherlands with Heerenveen. The Seattle midfield is in perpetual flux, but the Guatemalan, still only 26, will likely play on the left side. The 2010 Goal of the Year winner only joined the Sounders on Feb. 1 and made his debut on Sunday, starting on their final game in Tucson.

MAURO ROSALES (Chivas USA). Rosales was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2011, earning himself a big salary raise to DP status, but his last two seasons were marred by injuries. The Sounders chose to up captain Osvaldo Alonso's contract to DP status and shipped Rosales to Chivas USA, where he fills a huge hole in the Goats' midfield. His service from the run of play and on set pieces will be a big help.

STEVE ZAKUANI (Portland). Another ex-Sounder is Zakuani, whom the Timbers picked up in the Re-Entry Draft after they acquired the No. 2 pick from Chivas USA for young defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Zakuani, who is reunited with Timbers coach Caleb Porter, his coach at Akron, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He was a finalist for 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year and had 10 goals and six assists in 2010 but never returned to his top form after suffering a broken leg early in the 2011 MLS season and sitting out 14 months.

MLS Outside Midfielders, Incumbents:
Chicago: RM: Patrick Nyarko (160); LM: Dilly Duka (31).
Chivas USA: RM: Eric Avila (28); LM: *Bryan de la Fuente (12).
Colorado: RM: Vicente Sanchez (8); LM: Deshorn Brown (31).
Columbus: RM: Dominic Oduro (34); LM: Bernardo Anor (44).
FC Dallas: RM: JeVaughn Watson (24); LM: Fabian Castillo (80).
D.C. United: RM: Nick DeLeon (53); LM: Chris Pontius (123).
Houston: RM: Oscar Boniek Garcia (39); LM: Brad Davis (216).
LA Galaxy: RM: Robbie Rogers (11); LM: Gyasi Zardes (27).
Montreal: RM: Justin Mapp (54); LM: Sanna Nyassi (50).
New England:
RM: Saer Sene (49); LM: Diego Fagundez (57).
New York: RM: Eric Alexander (34); LM: Jonny Steele (33).
Philadelphia: RM: *Sebastien Le Toux (94); LM: Keon Daniel (64).
Portland: RM: Darlington Nagbe (95); LM: Rodney Wallace (71).
Real Salt Lake: RM: Luis Gil (84); LM: Ned Grabavoy (126).
San Jose: RM: Cordell Cato (28); LM: *Shea Salinas (93).
Seattle: RM: Brad Evans (112); LM: *Lamar Neagle (53).
Sporting KC: RM: Graham Zusi (123); LM: C.J. Sapong (90).
Toronto FC: RM: Alvaro Rey (13); LM: Reggie Lambe (55).
Vancouver: RM: Kekuta Manneh (20); LM: Russell Teibert (39).
In parentheses are games played with current team.
*Two separate stints at team.

1 comment
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: February 12, 2014 at 11:44 a.m.
    "Quakes' physical style"? Are San Jose fans stuck with another year of boring soccer? Any team can get to the playoffs--it's not really much of an accomplishment. And without pro/rel, what is my incentive for watching the run-up? Essentially zero at stake. And this year all eyes will be on Brazil, so the playoffs will look especially sad after watching an entire June full of drama. Wake me in November. If that makes me a "bad" fan, so be it. I don't see why I should support lame kick-and-run just because that team is located near me.

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